Sweet rendition of the Millennial Fair in Minecraft
You know what’s not a good idea? Busting out a bunch of ideas, having a good idea of what’s coming next, and then not working on your project for a month and a half. Man, I thought that I’d either continue working on this piece either before my cruise or directly afterwards, but instead I got back and started and completed “Mr. AC,” resulting in completely neglecting this tune.
That’s not to say that I didn’t get back to it until today. There were a couple nights in the past couple of weeks that I tried to wrench those old ideas out to no avail. I mostly came up with stuff that was a) not a fit, b) cheesy, or c) a little of both (I’ll admit it: it was mostly the third). Sometimes I think that you just have to churn something out and move on, but I liked what I had done on this piece enough not to do that.
The crux was waiting until I was in a mood to compose. The past couple of days have been nice here in Virginia Beach, giving me an extra mood boost and influencing me to do a little writing. I didn’t start by working on “Fanfare,” either; instead, I spent some time writing ideas for other tunes, and when I felt like I was in a good spot, I went back to “Fanfare” and tried to break the wall.
*Note: The spot where it loops (2:58) and the end has a weird, quick decrescendo—that’s a product of Finale that I couldn’t get around and will not be in the final cut. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
If you recall, 2:15 was where I ended last time. The plan was to continue the theme of having the brass be at the forefront of the piece as if they had barged into the woodwinds’ party unexpectedly, and then the woodwinds were going to come back in and everyone would be having a good time playing together. I essentially executed that vision, but not in a way that I was expecting.
The other week I had posted a link to a great interview with VGM composer Miki Higashino, the mastermind behind the soundtracks to such titles as Gradius and SuikodenI and II. When I stumbled across the interview I put it on the backburner; I hadn’t heard of Higashino before and just saw it as an opportunity to introduce myself to a composer after I had finished whatever else I was doing. After reading it months later, I started to expedite that listening in my to-do list, and then fellow VGM blogger Steve Lakawicz of Classical Gaming’s comment about Suikoden II pushed it to the top. Turns out that I started with Steve’s link to the opening video of said game and have since listened to the OST cover-to-cover twice (with some tunes getting quite a few extra replays). Take a listen to the track that threw me into the fray:
*Note: I refer to both the visuals and the music in this review, but if you want to listen to a better quality version of the audio, go here
For the first minute of the piece we get a powerful choral number that sets up the visuals of a burning village, armies, and a mad knight standing atop a mound of dead bodies. What I like about Higashino’s work here is that she doesn’t give the listener a run-of-the-mill “ominous choral piece,” which is so common in pretty much every form of visual media in need of a soundtrack today. If you’re like me, you roll your eyes at the overabundance and flatness of this what-now-is-a stereotypical device. The last one I can remember being affected by is John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates” from the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace soundtrack, which – aside from being awesome because of the scene and because of Darth Maul – is great because of the integration of both strong choral and instrumental writing.
Returning to Higashino, though, one of my favorite parts of the whole opening exists right at the beginning. Above the chorus shrieks this very, might I say, exotic ethnic voice whose timbre is so stark in contrast with the voices behind it that it’s almost alarming. It reminds me of when I saw the Republic of Korea Traditional Army Band at the Virginia International Tattoo in 2010, before I worked solely for the show. I remember thinking how terrified I’d be if I were in an army who went up against a Korean one that played the instruments that they did (namely the taepyeongso) due to how, to my uncultured American ears, unnatural and almost demonic they sounded in that context (read: awesome). The contrast between Korean traditional instruments and European ones is comparable to the sound of that voice as compared to the smoother European-style chorus. Its timbre combined with its melody and foreign rhythmic “hiccups” makes it razor sharp, especially when the part sounds like it splits via multiphonics at 0:21 (note that there are two voices, but their combined timbre makes me hears them in a way that’s comparable to saxophone multiphonics). Simply the idea to include that kind of voice was great, but its place rhythmically and harmonically amongst the more traditional Western chorus furthers its effect on the listener.
Before I begin, no, this new tune is not based on the picture to the right. I thought it would be nice to have a graphic on the post, so I did an image search for “fanfare” on Google and, lo and behold, there was the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland with my initials on his chest (it might be a bib) blowing a trumpet on the top row. What are the odds??
Shortly after I finished up my latest draft of “Gumshoes” I quickly inputed a few new ideas into Logic and Finale. “Fanfare and Jubilee” is one of those. It actually started off solely as a fanfare – I wanted to do a brass quintet-like piece – but something made me veer off into a different territory, namely the jubilee part, which now is the focus of the tune.
Take a listen to my first minute and a quarter or so–it’ll give you a good idea of the piece’s flavour:
Imagine: A player walks around a city and triggers an FMV of a procession. A king or hero or what have you is announced by the brass at the start of a festival and the crowd is snapped to attention. Following the appearance of the figure, shenanigans ensue–it’s a party! Woo! Everyone go have fun!
That’s the idea. Then you go and try to assassinate the figure amidst the parading and festivaling or something. Sorry, thems the dregs of some video games; your character just can’t stop and have fun playing minigames or anything–what do you think this is, 1996?